Saturday morning in Katowice, Poland, lines of fans and aspiring competitors snaked in front of Spodek Arena, waiting for entry into the first public day of pro League of Legends play at Intel Extreme Masters, sponsored by Gillette.

These fans may not be full-time gamers, yet many consider themselves serious, competitive LoL players — whether they are struggling up out of bronze, or trying to make a name for themselves in diamond. We asked them about their gaming level-up moments, and they — plus some League professional players — had great answers. Read on below, from bronze to pro.


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For one man, his level-up moment came when he first decided to click into a ranked match. “For the first three to four years of playing League of Legends, I didn’t play ranked at all — absolutely none. I was just too afraid that I’d suck at it.” he said. “When I finally broke through the fear, it was just so easy.”

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The big change came when he realized he needed to rely on developing his own skills rather than wait to be matched with strong players. “Now I know I need to carry my team, I need to get kills. It changes everything drastically.”

Another fan attributed his biggest level-up moment to increasing mechanical precision. “It all comes down to mechanical skill level. I knew that I could reach higher ranks with my mechanics,” he said, adding — with some pride — “I think I [got] some triple or quadra kills on Tristana in a competitive match.”

Another fan reached a particularly rare milestone on his 1000th game, a happy coincidence he still remembers fondly. He said, “I made diamond 5, it was my dream! It took 1,000 games. Of course this season I made diamond 3 in just a few weeks, but it’s not the same.”

Of course winning — whether one game, or 1,000 games — isn’t everything. One player who reached master tier experienced his level-up after a long grind of competitive play. He began playing League in high school and made platinum in Season 2. His LoL journey culminated at the finals of the Red Bull Ultimate Player tournament in the Czech Republic. He said, “Unfortunately I came in second, out of thousands of players, but still it was an achievement.”

H2k’s Odoamne at IEM Katowice.

High-level competition has a way of refining even the best players. H2k top-laner Odoamne feels his performance peaks each year at Worlds. “The practice was just better,” he said. “All the teams I was playing against were really good, so it forced me to play better. I’m playing [against] the top of the top, so there’s no bad games, there’s no easy games. It just forces me to play better.”

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Odoamne’s teammate Jankos, the star jungler from Poland, said he rarely experiences big jumps in skill level: Rather, improvement is more incremental. He said, “I always try to work on my mistakes and take it step by step, day by day, practice by practice, tournament by tournament. I never felt like, ‘Holy moly! Today I felt so much better than yesterday.’ [Instead] it was hard work, day by day, doing everything to grow as a better person and as a better player.

Those are the best moments: When all the hours of practice finally pay off, providing the satisfaction of a hard-earned win — and the knowledge your opponents are about to feel the burn.

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Asher Ross covers arts and culture for a variety of publications. He has also proudly mained Xin Zhao in bronze for five seasons.

This post is a sponsored collaboration between Gillette and Studio@Gizmodo.